Got Milk… Punch?

Earlier this year, Keith and I went to New Orleans for a relaxing, boozy sort of trip.  I’m not embarrassed to say I’m not much of a drinker and that I’m a terrible drinking companion in the sense that I can’t hold my liquor reliably, but I will proudly tell you I’m an awesome drinking companion in the sense that I’ll cheer you on and get you home safe.

What’s nice about New Orleans isn’t that there are not only a plethora of friendly cabbies to deliver you to your hotel — though they are very nice and friendly indeed — but that there’s an awesome amount of amazing bartenders to provide you with exactly what you need.

In my case, what I needed on a hot Thursday afternoon was a milk punch.  Chris Hannah at the French 75 told me so, and sent me to the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone to get one.  I’ve always been  good at following directions.

Milk punches are fun.  They’re frothy and sweetened by vanilla and there’s no way you can feel bad about drinking one (or two).  A cold milk punch is even nicer when you come home to one on a disgustingly hot and humid night, or the ingredients for one.  It’ll definitely make the day seem a whole lot cooler.

Milk Punch, from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh
This recipe only makes one.  I suggest you make more than that.

1 ounce brandy
½ ounce dark rum
2 teaspoons simple syrup*
2 dashes vanilla extract
4 ounces whole milk (though I used skim since that’s what I drink)

  1. Shake the ingredients all together in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.
  2. Strain into a tumble half full of shaved ice.
  3. Grate or shake some nutmeg on top.
* Simple syrup is so, um, simple to make that adding a recipe here really is silly.  Regardless, here we go.  In a small saucepan, bring one cup sugar and one cup water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.  This takes only a few minutes. Then remove the saucepan from the stove and let cool completely.  You can store this in your fridge in a tightly sealed bottle for about three months.

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(Almost) Five Days in New Orleans.

No matter where I am, home or away, I’m always looking ahead to my next trip.  I can’t help it.  There’s so much in the world that I haven’t seen, and I can’t understand why we spend so much time standing still.  I mean, sure — I’m cozy on my sofa right now listening to Sparklehorse‘s It’s a Wonderful Life and I’m considering another Fluffernutter, but I’m also thinking about Saigon, I’m also thinking about Singapore, I’m also thinking about Cebu.

I’m also, as it turns out, thinking about the time Keith and I spend in New Orleans last week.  I had visited the city with a friend nine years before and had really loved the it, so I was eager to see what Keith thought.

Monday*
Got on the plan in warmer-than-usual-but-still-incredibly-cold Boston and got off in wet, windy and chilly New Orleans.  I swear to you — temperatures in New Orleans were lower than they were at home.  Hopped a cab to the W on Poydras and, once we got to our room, immediately crawled under the covers.  After a nap, debated which within-walking-distance restaurant to check out for dinner and settled on the Cajun cuisine at Cochon.  Walked the half mile in absolutely torrential rain that soaked us through our raincoats in spite of our overworked umbrellas.  Tried to dry off while sharing small plates of fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly on toast ($9.00) and caramelized onion and grits casserole ($9.00).  Neither Keith nor I could decide on entrées so we opted to be That Couple and also split our main courses.  Ordered the eponymous cochon with turnips, cabbage and cracklins ($22.00) as well as the oyster and bacon sandwich ($14.00), thus beginning my week of fried-oyster-eatin’.  Of course, by dinner’s end the rain had stopped so we slogged our waterlogged selves by to the hotel for a warm bath and bed.

Tuesday
Woke up to a dry city… that was utterly freezing.  Pulled on as many layers as possible and wished I had packed a pair of gloves, especially as we walked to the French Quarter.  In spite of the cold, wandered around before popping into Faulkner House Books on Pirate’s Alley, where Keith picked up a really nice Flannery O’Connor anthology. Lunch at Mr. B’s Bistro.  Made a little meal out of appetizers — creamy mushroom soup and (more) fried oysters — while Keith drank a $1.50 vodka lemonade while eating gumbo and barbecued shrimp.  Got couple-y again and shared bread pudding for dessert.  Headed to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas to hang out with the penguins, stingrays and sea otters, followed by a Sazerac and  a not-as-gingery-as-expected ginger mojito at The Living Room.  Finished reading M. F. K. Fisher‘s Long Ago In France: The Years In Dijon while Keith took a pre-dinner nap.  Dinner at Brigtsen’s: an oyster and artichokes gratin ($10.00) and the signature seafood platter ($32.00), which was comprised of drum fish with a crawfish and pistachio lime sauce, shrimp cornbread with jalapeño smoked corn, a baked oyster smothered in shrimp and crabmeat, a baked oyster Bienville, shrimp with jalapeño coleslaw and a panéed scallop with asparagus coulis.  Continued the twosome streak by divvying up a piece of pecan pie drizzled with caramel sauce ($6.00).   Drinks at The Swizzle Stick Bar, then bed.

Wednesday
Finally, a warm and sunny day!  Grabbed coffee, chai and a croissant before catching the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to the Garden District, where we took a walking tour led by someone who must be the most informative, interesting guide working for Historic New Orleans Tours.  Couldn’t resist having lunch at Commander’s Palace, what with its famous —  and famously strong — 25¢ martinis, so ordered one with extra olives and the special of turtle soup and citrus-glazed gulf fish ($16.00).  Turned out Keith and I were on a roll with the dessert-sharing since we split the bread pudding soufflé ($8.50).   Walked down Magazine Street to the amazing National World War II Museum before riding the streetcar back to the hotel for a second pre-dinner nap.  More fried oysters, this time on a po’boy from Mother’s Restaurant.  A French 75 at the French 75 Bar, where bartender Chris Hannah suggested we check out the Sazerac Bar and its cocktails; we headed over and I drank something called a “French Quarter” — pear vodka, pear nectar, brandy and sugar — before calling it a night.

Thursday
Slept in and got off to a late start, but that’s what vacations  are for!  Lunch at Stanley, whose owners also run Stella — get it? — but was on oyster overload so got crazy and ordered  the “world famous burger” ($8.75), which was  more fine than famous.  Sampled fragrances at Hové Parfumeur before selecting Rue Royal and Verveine as my favorites.  Midday cocktails at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone; since Chris Hannah had told us to order milk punch and the Ramos Gin Fizz, we did and loved them.  Hailed a cab to take us to the Audubon Zoo, where peacocks and pelicans roam free.  Streetcar back to the hotel for — you guessed it! — a nap, though I was too busy reading  Marcelo In The Real World by Francisco X. Stork to sleep.  Dinner at Lüke.  I loved my  rabbit and duck liver pâté ($8.00) and was satisfied with my crabmeat-stuffed ravioli and its Meyer lemon sauce ($19.00) but was appalled by the sloppy service.  Drinks at Napoleon House before ending up yet again at the Sazerac Bar  with another Ramos Gin Fizz since Bar Uncommon was hosting an event.  Tipsily walked back to the hotel.

Friday
Wanted to sleep in but didn’t have that much time left in Louisiana so hauled ourselves out of bed to make the mandatory pit stop at Café du Monde.  Took one look at the dining-in line and politely elbowed over to the take-out queue; although also long, it was less than half the length of its rival.  Sat on a nearby  bench with our bags of beignets and my cup of chicory café au lait, taking care not to sprinkle myself — and my dark clothing — with the excess powdered sugar.  Dodged shoppers at the French Market, which wasn’t nearly as produce-heavy as I would have liked and instead seemed to focus on  kitschy souvenirs.  Picked out Mardi Gras beads and a matching mask for our niece, as well as pralines from Aunt Sally’s before stopping by Central Grocery to buy a muffuletta to eat on the plane.  Got a ride to the airport the nicest taxi driver of all time.  Disembarked in Boston, where  the temperature raised itself to welcome us home.

* This picture is from a not-rainy day.

Cocktails and Snacks at Green Street Grill.

Keith and I had some time to kill before meeting up with a visiting friend for dinner in Central Square, so we arranged to meet up at Green Street Grill for some drinks. We had both heard that their cocktails were not to be missed, so we thought it would be the perfect spot to cool down on a hot and sticky Cambridge night.

Don’t be put off by Green Street Grill’s divey and unremarkable façade. As the saying goes, a book (or a bar) is not to be judged by its cover. If you don’t follow this axiom, I suggest this as being the perfect time to start, as the drinks here are superb.

The cocktail menu is full of old-fashioned drinks, some of which are only recently being brought back to bars. Not only that, but some of the liquors and spirits used in these drinks have only recently been allowed in the States, such as the Batavia Arrack, originally from Sri Lanka. I chose the enticing-sounding Blinker, with its fresh grapefruit juice and fresh raspberry syrup mixed with a generous portion of Old Overholt Rye ($7.50). It should be noted that I’m not much of a rye and whisky kinda gal, but regardless, the Blinker was fantastic. Don’t get me wrong — it was a strong drink, to be sure, but the fruit flavors were equally strong and bright.

Since the notion of me drinking on an empty stomach is not a good idea for anyone involved, Keith and I decided to order something to nibble on while we sipped at our drinks. (He started with a truly delicious French 75, which is more along the lines of what I normally tend to like, and finished up with a Sazerac.) Keith and I couldn’t agree upon a snack, so we got two: candied and spiced peanuts and homemade chips and dip (each $3.00).

The peanuts, Keith’s choice, were indeed sweet and candied, but they ended with a fiery finish that set my mouth ablaze. (It should be noted that I have zero tolerance for spicy foods, and that in this case, Keith called me a wimp.) In spite of the flaming sensation I was feeling, I helped myself to several handfuls.

The chips were my selection, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with them. Perfectly salty and ridiculously crisp, they were fantastic. The dip, instead of being of the sour cream variety, reminded me more of a garlicky aioli. I might be biased, as a person madly in love with aioli, but in my mind this was a perfect barside plate. I couldn’t have asked for more in a snack.

If you decide to brave its seedy neighborhood and dicey exterior, do angle for a seat at the bar and not at one of the many tables surrounding it. Trust me, you’re going to want to see the frenzy of activity the friendly bartenders go through to mix your drinks. It’s truly hypnotizing.

Green Street
280 Green Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
617.876.1655
greenstreetgrill.com

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